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    So if it's not the handicaps we've imposed on cops and prosecutors, and it's not institutionalized
    racism, and it's not material want, then what is the fundamental cause of predatory street crime.

    Moral poverty.

    ...[M]oral poverty is the poverty of being without loving, capable, responsible adults who teach you
    right from wrong; the poverty of being without parents and other authorities who habituate you to
    feel joy at others' joy, pain at others' pain, satisfaction when you do right, remorse when you do
    wrong; the poverty of growing up in the virtual absence of people who teach morality by their own
    everyday example and who insist that you follow suit.

    The twin character scars left by moral poverty--lack of impulse control and lack of
    empathy--reinforce each other and make it far more likely that the individual will succumb to either
    the temptations of crime, or the blandishments of drugs, or, as so often happens, both.
        -Body Count

One of the more comforting aspects of conservatism is that you can adopt one set of principles--most elements of which are hundreds (capitalism and republican democracy) or even thousands (10 Commandments, Golden Rule, Sermon on the Mount) of years old, and have stood the test of time--and then stick with it your whole adult life.  At any given moment several of the positions you adhere to will certainly be out of favor, but just as surely the tide will eventually turn back in your favor.  New ideas and fancy fads will come and go, leaving trend-sucking liberals with their heads spinning, but you can just stick to your guns and ignore them all, secure in the knowledge that folks will eventually return to their senses and come scurrying back to the timeless virtues.  This is especially the case when it comes to Crime and Punishment.  Few issues, other than the equally intractable Taxation and Education,  have been so susceptible over the years to "innovative" thinking and "radical" solutions as the problem of Crime.  But time and again we all end up returning to the conservative mantra : what's needed are a societal emphasis on loving families and traditional morality, vigorous law enforcement, and harsh punishments.

This book then is an unsurprising call for a return to these first principles, in particular a clarion call for an effort to combat moral poverty, and, equally unsurprisingly, its policy prescriptions are currently back in vogue. Between the candidacy of Joe Lieberman and the victory of George W. Bush, religious belief is once again a central part of our national debate, morality is a hot topic, and a broad consensus has formed around the idea that faith-based institutions, with their manifest moral component, are better at delivering social services than government bureaucracies.  Coauthor John DiIulio has, in fact, been named to be the coordinator of President Bush's Faith Based Initiative.  And, what with now former President Clinton mired in a new scandal (which will inevitably come to be known as Pardongate) Bill Bennett is popping up all over the networks and editorial pages, getting to say, "I told you so" and preach the importance of morality in public life.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Rudy Guliani has proven that crime can be reduced and civic manners restored by relentlessly prosecuting even minor infractions.   Perhaps most importantly, reforms like building more prisons, Three Strikes and You're Out, mandatory sentencing, and incarcerating even low level drug offenders, have helped to bring about a tremendous reduction in crime rates.  It would seem that, in a sense, this book has been made superfluous by the very success of the ideas it advocates.

But never fear, already we hear calls to relax drug laws (many of them fueled by the new movie Traffic) amidst hand-wringing over the burgeoning prison population.  Perhaps the best aspect of this book is that the authors actually go beyond just drugs and demonstrate the close connection between alcohol and crime.  One of the most effective arguments of those who support legalization of drugs is the comparison to alcohol.  The authors head off this line of reasoning by indicting alcohol too.  You've got to admire a conservatism so fierce and intellectually honest that it's basically willing to refight some of the battles of Prohibition.

Another phenomenon we've witnessed in recent years is one of those patented psychic disconnects on the part of liberals that we conservatives so treasure, folks on the Left have actually taken to arguing that the statistics showing a drop in crime can not be right because of the size of the current prison population.  Their characteristically fuzzy logic maintains that if crime really were going down there would perforce be less people in prison.  This confusion over cause and effect, obvious as it seems, and the accompanying appeals to middle class white guilt will inevitably lead to an eventual relaxing of our guard and the pendulum will swing back towards leniency and permissiveness.

This book is somewhat dated now, because of its reliance on statistics and because too much of what it has to say has been adopted as public policy, but put it on a shelf for a few years and you'll be able to take it down during the next explosion in crime.  Think of public policy making as a huge game of "Whack the Mole" conservatives always remain poised with the same hammer (a consistent set of ideas) and periodically have to bang away with the hammer when experimentation with liberal ideas manages to unleash a plague of vermin.  Lift this book and you wield the hammer.


Grade: (B-)


See also:

William Bennett (2 books reviewed)
Book-related and General Links:
    -ESSAY : What Good Is Government? (William J. Bennett & John J. DiIulio, Jr., Commentary)
    -ESSAY : Unified Kvetch Theory  : Got a problem? Blame "radical individualism." (Walter Olson, Reason)
    -REVIEW : of Body Count (James Lardner, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Body Count: Moral Poverty . . . and How to Win America's War Against Crime and Drugs  by William J. Bennett, John J. DiIulio, Jr., and John P. Walters and Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities  by George L. Kelling and Catherine M. Coles (Gary Rosen, Commentary)

    -Dr. John J. DiIulio (Fox Leadership School)
    -ARCHIVES : John DiIulio (Manhattan Institute)
    -SPEECH : A Speech Delivered Before The National Association Of Evangelicals By John DiIulio, Jr. (March 7, 2001)
    -ESSAY : The Political Theory Of Compassionate Conservatism (John J. DiIulio, Jr., The Weekly Standard, August 23, 1999)
    -DISCUSSION : THE CRUCIAL IDEAS IN ELECTION 2000 :   Is symbolism swamping substance?  (John DiIulio * Michael Barone * Christopher Hitchens, The American Enterprise)
    -ESSAY : The Lord's Work : The Church and the "Civil Society Sector" (John J. DiIulio, Jr., Brookings Review)
    -ESSAY : The Coming Of The Super-Predators (John J. Dilulio, November 27, 1995, The Weekly Standard)
    -ESSAY : Young and Deadly (John J. DiIulio, Jr., National Review, April 3, 2000)
    -ESSAY : Against Mandatory Minimums; Drug Sentencing Run Amok (John J. DiIulio, Jr., National Review, May 17, 1999)
    -ESSAY : The Next Step in the War on Crime (John J. DiIulio, Jr., New York Post, Monday, August 23, 1999)
    -ESSAY : An Easy Ride for Felons on Probation (John J. DiIulio Jr. and Joseph Tierney, The New York Times, August 29,2000)
    -ESSAY : Two Million Prisoners Are Enough (John J. DiIulio Jr. , The Wall Street Journal, March 12,1999)
    -ESSAY : The House That Crack Built : The Inmates of Clark County Jail (Kent Dixon, John DiIulio, Mercer Sullivan, The American Prospect)
    -ESSAY : Philadelphia Police Deserve Benefit of the Doubt (John J. DiIulio Jr. , The Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2000)
    -ESSAY : How Philadelphia Salvages Teen Criminals (John J. DiIulio, Jr. & Beth Z. Palubinsky, City Journal, Summer 1997)
    -ESSAY : Instant Replay : Three Strikes Was the Right Call (John DiIulio and Jerome H. Skolnick, The American Prospect, 1994)
    -ESSAY : A Handout for Everyone: Do we really need a universal federal subsidy for prescription drugs? (John DiIulio, The  Weekly Standard, July 24, 2000)
    -ESSAY : My School Choice: Literacy First (John DiIulio, The Weekly Standard, October 19, 1998)
    -ESSAY : Twilight Of Authority (John DiIulio, The Weekly Standard, May 3, 1999)
    -ESSAY : My Black Crime Problem, and Ours (John DiIulio, City Journal, Spring 1996)
    -ESSAY : Equal Protection Run Amok : Conservatives will come to regret the Court's rationale for Bush v. Gore. (John J. DiIulio Jr., Weekly Standard)
    -ESSAY : Arresting Ideas : Tougher law enforcement is driving down urban crime (John J. DiIulio Jr., Policy Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy,  by David Klinghoffer ( (John J. DiIulio, Jr., National Review)
    -INTERVIEW : Kids Who Kill :   A Conversation with John DiIulio (Michael Cromartie, Books & Culture)
    -INTERVIEW : With Unconditional Love : Criminologist John DiIulio explains why a God-centered  and problem-focused approach is needed to save our youth. (Jim Wallis, Sojourners)
    -ARCHIVES : "DiIulio" (
    -ARCHIVES : DiIulio (Find Articles)
    -PROFILE : The Minister of Ministries : George W. Bush launches his faith-based initiative. (Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard)
    -PROFILE : Bringing faith to the West Wing : John DiIulio, who once spread fear about juvenile "superpredators," will now run President Bush's faith-based charity programs -- and build an army from GOP patronage. (Bruce Shapiro, Salon)
    -PROFILE : Prison conversion : After studying nonviolent drug offenders, a criminologist who once said "Let 'Em Rot" now says "Let 'Em Go."  (Jacob Sullum, Reason)
    -PROFILE : Onward Christian Soldier : John DiIulio (Richard Morin, Washington Post)
    -ARTICLE : Blunt Defense of Faith-Based Aid (Thomas Edsall, Washington Post)
    -ESSAY : Backward, March :  The Democrats rally. (John J. Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review)
    -ESSAY : DiIulio's Bully Pulpit : The unattractive side of "compassionate conservatism." (John J. Miller & Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review)
    -REVIEW : of NO ESCAPE The Future of American Corrections. By John J. DiIulio Jr (1991) (Diana R. Gordon, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Governing Prisons: A Comparative Study of Correctional Management (1988) (Shirley Horner, NY Times Book Review)

    -The Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America is an exciting initiative launched by Professor Robert D. Putnam at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. This multi-year dialogue focuses on how we can increasingly build bonds of civic trust among Americans and their communities
    -ESSAY : Standing Up for Faith : The critics of faith-based programs seem to be saying that we must accept the soft tyranny of low expectations. (Hillel Fradkin, National Review)
    -ESSAY : Can the Churches Save the Cities? : Faith-Based Services and the Constitution (Isaac Kramnick, The American Prospect)
    -ESSAY : Is God a Republican? :  Why Politics Is Dangerous for Religion (Isaac Kramnick, The American Prospect)
    -ESSAY : Hearts & Minds : The Church Steps Forward : From welfare reform to overcoming poverty. A strategy for action. (Jim Wallis, Sojourners)
    -ESSAY : Unholy Alliance (Wendy Kaminer, The American Prospect)
    -ESSAY : Faith-based charity: poised for revival? (Martin Morse Wooster, Tribune Review)
    -ESSAY : Researchers take a leap into faith :  In most of the nation's cities, church-related organizations are doubling their efforts to assist the elderly, the infirm, those addicted to drugs  and alcohol, convicts and the working poor who fall through government safety nets. (BILL MAXWELL, St. Petersburg Times, published December 1, 1999)

Other recommended books by William J. Bennett :
    -The Book of Virtues : A Treasury of Great Moral Stories (1993)  (read Orrin's review, Grade: A+)
    -Body Count : Moral Poverty . . . and How to Win America's War Against Crime and Drug (1996) (with John DiIulio Jr. and John P. Walters )   (read Orrin's review, Grade: B-)
    -The Death of Outrage : Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals (1998)   (read Orrin's review, Grade: A-)

    (see Brothers Judd's William Bennett links)

    -Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
    -Think for Yourself : A Drug Policy Reading Room on the Drug War
    -ARCHIVES : drugs (
    -ARTICLE : Parent behavior can curb teen drug use (ANJETTA McQUEEN,  Feb. 21, 2001 | WASHINGTON (AP)
    -ESSAY : The War On Drugs Is Lost (William F Buckey Jr, National Review, February 1996)
    -ESSAY : The elephant in the room : Presidential candidates are silent on the failure of the U.S. war on drugs. (Michael Massing, Salon)
    -ESSAY : U.S. drug policy: Are we doing the right thing?  The White House responds to Michael Massing's critique of the war on drugs, and Massing replies (Salon)
    -REVIEW : of SMOKE AND MIRRORS The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure By Dan Baum (1996) (CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of THE CASE FOR LEGALIZING DRUGS By Richard Lawrence Miller (1991) (Norval Morris, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Reckoning Drugs, the Cities and the American Future By Elliott Currie and The Making of a Drug-Free America  Programs That Work By Mathea Falco (Herbert Mitgang, NY Times)

    -The Volstead Act and Related Prohibition Documents (National Archives and Records Administration)
    -American Temperance and Prohibition (Ohio State U)
    -Prohibition in the 1920s
    -Volstead Act - A-to-Z History -
    -Prohibition in America (
    -ESSAY :  ALCOHOL PROHIBITION WAS A FAILURE (Mark Thornton, Cato Institute)
    -ESSAY : History of Alcohol Prohibition (National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse )
    -ESSAY : How Alcohol Prohibition Was Ended (Richard M. Evans, Drug Sense)

    -ARCHIVES : Sociology (Leadership U)
    -Crime in America (Kerby Anderson, Probe Ministries)
    -ESSAY : Crime and Punishment in California: Are We Too Tough or Not Tough Enough? (Steven Hayward and Lance T. Izumi, Pacific Research, May 1996)
    -ESSAY : Can We Be Good Without Hell? (Jerry L. Walls, Christianity Today)

    -ESSAY : If Everybody Knows So Much About Education, Why Doesn't Education Work? (John Allen Paulos, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : WHOSE CANON IS IT, ANYWAY?   (Henry Louis Gates Jr., NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : IDEAS & TRENDS; Setting the Standards For Literary Masterpieces (NY Times Week in Review, May 29, 1988)
    -ESSAY : ON CAMPUS: THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS (James Atlas, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE HOLLOW MEN Politics and Corruption in Higher Education. By Charles J. Sykes (Fred M. Hechinger, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Opening of the American Mind Canons, Culture, and History. By Lawrence W. Levine (Frank Kermode, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of POLITICS BY OTHER MEANS Higher Education and Group Thinking. By David Bromwich (David Lodge, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of DICTATORSHIP OF VIRTUE Multiculturalism and the Battle for America's Future By Richard Bernstein (Nicholas Lehmann, NY times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of IMPOSTORS IN THE TEMPLE By Martin Anderson (Paul Starr, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Debating P.C. The Controversy Over Political Correctness on College Campuses Edited by Paul Berman  (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of THE PYROTECHNIC INSANITARIUM American Culture on the Brink By Mark Dery (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of INSIDE AMERICAN EDUCATION The Decline, the Deception, the Dogmas. By Thomas Sowell (John Brademas, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Smart Schools, Smart Kids Why Do Some Schools Work? By Edward B. Fiske (JEANNIE OAKES, NY Times Book Review)

    -Ethics and Public Policy Center